Last week I finally got my carte de séjour. This is essentially my ID, work permit, travel document, and residency card all rolled into one slightly-larger-than-wallet-sized piece of laminated paper. As part of my Contrat d’acceuil et d’intégration, I had to attend a day-long seminar regarding my rights and duties as a member/resident of la République Française. This seminar, aka Formation civique (civic training), was to begin at 9:00 am sharp. I was told not to be late and that I should expect it to take all day, until 5:00 pm. Lunch would be provided. At the end of the day I would be given a certificate proving that I was there, which I will need to present when I wish to renew the carte de séjour. Without it, my renewal may be denied.
So on Friday I woke up early and rode the Métro a solid 40 minutes, all the way across town. I arrived promptly at 8:45 and sat down. I noticed the wall had some red and blue napkins taped to it in various patterns. (The photo at the top is one of said napkins. They all declared “I love the Republic.”) At this point I began taking notes on my phone, realizing I lacked pen and paper.
8:50 am – My name is taken and I am told to wait for the “Monet room” group to be called. (All the rooms in this building are named after famous French people. Or Albert Einstein.)
8:55 am – I notice a warning written on the white board at the end of the room, by the coffee and tea urns. It reads: “Pour notre santé a tous interdit de cracher par terre.” Translation: For the sake of our health it is forbidden to spit on the floor. Umm, is this a recurring problem?
9:07 am – The first group is called. I’m not in it.
9:10 am – My group is called. We go up two flights of stairs to the Monet room and sit down. This takes about 45 seconds.
9:15 am – The formateur (teacher/trainer) tells us that we will begin in 15 minutes. Glad I was on time.
9:20 am – Roll call. Windows 2000 VERY SLOWLY starts up. Everyone with a French name gets a smile. The rest get awkward pauses while the teacher attempts to pronounce half the name, hoping the owner of the bizarre name will jump in and correct him. Luckily, the name Camille lands me in the first category.
9:30 am – A paper is passed around the room which we all must sign to prove our attendance.
9:47 am – (i.e. 32 minutes after we were told we had 15 minutes) Class starts. We go around the room introducing ourselves. The class is all in French, so most of the participants are from former French colonies in Africa. The teacher tells us that since he doesn’t have to do this formation in two languages, we may get to go home a little early.
10:10 am – A latecomer arrives, interrupting the proceedings for a full 10 minutes while the teacher leaves the room to speak with his colleague.
10:50 am – Coffee break. I have tea, which is surprisingly decent. I take a bathroom break and am surprised to see this on the wall: